'Quality' by John Galsworthy is indeed the story of Mr. Gessler's triumph over crushing adversities. Discuss.
“Quality” tells the story of Mr. Gessler, a German shoemaker. Although Mr. Gessler makes the best boots in London, his business is failing because he is unable to compete with the big companies around him. These companies, we learn, earn their customers not through quality but advertising. Mr. Gessler is ultimately triumphant in that he is able to establish his own conditions for success; what matters most to Gessler is that he produces quality boots, and in this regard he succeeds.
Gessler views making boots as an art during a time in which the world around him is increasingly shaped by the buying and selling of commodities. Mr. Gessler refuses to give into modern business practices. Whereas his competitors depend on advertisement, Gessler’s approach is minimalist in nature:
There was no sign upon it other than the name of Gessler Brothers; and in the window a few pairs of boots. He made only what was ordered, and what he made never failed to fit.
Mr. Gessler tells the narrator that “Dose big virms ‘ave no self-respect.” Ultimately, Gessler’s triumph is that of an artist who respects himself and his work. Mr. Gessler makes a quality product—it is so high quality, in fact, that the narrator claims it lasts forever. But Mr. Gessler is less concerned with selling more boots and making a profit than he is making a work of art, and in this regard he succeeds on his own terms.
Mr. Gessler is a German shoemaker who makes quality boots in London around the turn of the twentieth century. He buys the best leather and handcrafts the boots himself. But he can't make ends meet. Competitors advertise, which the Gesslers do not. People buy the lower-quality boots from other sellers, who more aggressively market. Mr. Gessler, however, refuses to compromise. He makes his boots the old-fashioned, high-quality way. He slowly starves to death, works night and day, and sometimes goes without a fire.
These are crushing adversities, and in the end, they kill Mr. Gessler. However, he triumphs in that he never compromises quality. His craft comes before his profit. He holds onto his integrity by doing his work in the old-fashioned way, the best way.
The story can be understood in the context of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement. Morris argued in favor of craftsmen. As factory-made goods displaced what was handcrafted, workers became alienated from their work. After all, rather than handcrafting items, they were simply running the machines that made them—but advertising allowed these inferior products to sell. This story criticizes a society that puts hype and profit ahead of quality workmanship. It implies that better supports were needed for people like Mr. Gessler, if only in the form of people noticing and buying from him, and mourns the passing of such craftsmen.